Dear Umbra,

In this day and age, when many people seem to be getting rid of their “land lines” in favor of cell phones, I find myself wondering how these two options stack up against one another from an environmental-impact perspective.

Doug Quirk
Eugene, Ore.

Dearest Doug,

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I have a fairly strong anti-cell-phone bias. I am a cranky lady who believes they are eroding public manners and encouraging various irresponsibilities, some serious and others unimportant. But, as my father once enigmatically said, you can’t stop the 5th Fleet. Whatever that means.

Hang up and drive.

Photo: iStockPhoto.

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Here is my own cranky opinion as to why cell phones are more environmentally harmful: People can talk in their cars, hence the evil likelihood of sitting in a running car with the heater or air-conditioner pumping while they finish a call or get some privacy. People talk while they drive, which results in more accidents, thus cars are going to wrecking yards at higher rates. Oooh — also, think of all the times you’ve had to suddenly brake because of an idiotic maneuver by a cell-phone-talkin’ bonehead. We all know that driving at moderate, steady speeds is most efficient; if phoners cause us to brake at higher rates, this means higher gas consumption worldwide. Noise pollution has also increased, what with the ringing of electronic chimes and everyone talking loudly in public about their inane lives. The social environment has degraded, with many of us incredibly annoyed by cell-phone talkers.

And, to be more serious, cell phones have the same trouble as all the computers that I’ve been fawning and fretting over these last few columns. They must needs be manufactured with toxins and quickly become obsolete. Wireless land-line models with electronic features share these issues to a certain extent, but are less susceptible to death by fashion. It’s the cellular phones, disposed of — at an alarming rate! — that have us all in a tizzy. The standard non-wireless models with no electronic features are remarkably simple devices with a few wires inside and no computer bits. Energy consumption is the other obvious difference between cell, wireless, and traditional land lines. Cell and wireless phones consume power during use, charging, and standby modes. Even battery chargers pull power if left plugged in to the wall. Cell-phone energy efficiency is increasing, but still canna compare to the tiny power draw of a traditional land line. If you can find one, a non-wireless land line is certainly the best for energy consumption and for “e-waste,” as it is charmingly called.

Be responsible, cell-phone owners. Don’t be a slave to fashion. Keep your phone as long as you can, don’t leave it on when you’re not using it, be sure it is reused, and for goodness’ sake, stop answering the phone while you’re spending time with friends. Drives me nuts.


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